· Globally 4 people get disabled every 5 minutes due to snakebites which kills nearly 58,000 people in India annually
· Snakebite can produce multiple disabilities of various organ systems including acute kidney injury and blindness
· Disability not being addressed as part of the snakebite agenda in any country of the world, says expert from WHO
Every year in India snakebites cause long-lasting disabilities in four out of five people every five minutes, causing a huge disease burden that often gets underestimated and neglected. But, today Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Shri Ramdas Athawale highlighted the need for a new health policy to tackle the rarely notifiable condition.
Union Minister, Public health experts, policymakers and administrators have gathered at a policy roundtable on Snakebite & Disability, organised by the leading health awareness institution Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Council and powered by BSV, to underline the requirement of spreading awareness on means to prevent disability caused due to snakebite on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disability.
“Today many administrators and leaders have gathered here to discuss a pertinent issue of disability due to snakebite. I am grateful that IHW has invited me to be a part of this event. Due to snakebite, many people die across the world. From 2000 to 2019 1.2 million people died due to the snakebite, whereas, in India approximately 58,000 people die every year due to snakebite. This grave issue needs special emphasis from the government. New technologies need to be invented to deal with it. Local people, who take out the venom, should be encouraged. A new policy should be made to deal with this health crisis due to the snakebite,” said Shri Ramdas Athawale, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.
Ms. Urvashi Prasad, Director, DMEO, Niti Aayog outlined the need for strengthening the infrastructure of the primary healthcare centres, which are the first point of contact in such cases.
“A whole public health approach becomes very important, as much as we look at the healthcare side of the medical facility services we provide. We need to put our emphasis on primary care. We need to strengthen our infrastructure part and not just the physical infrastructure but actually the human resource capabilities that we have. We also need to involve the local leaders traditionally to amplify our messaging against disabilities due to the snakebite,” Prasad said.
“From the policy perspective, it’s very important to consult very widely with those who are affected and try to get the disability community, so that they can achieve better outcomes for the people who need help. Disability is not being addressed as part of the snakebite agenda in any country of the world. We need to recognize the fact that disability is perhaps the more important outcome in snakebite envenoming than death itself,” said Dr David Williams, Technical Officer (Antivenoms) vaccines, WHO.
However, Mr Chetan Raj Singh, Vice President-Critical Care & Emergency Medical, Bharat Serums & Vaccines Limited said there is no dearth of anti-venom medicines in India but the trained doctors. If you look in India, we are very lucky that we have five anti-venom manufacturing companies. So, there is no dearth of anti-venoms. People are not dying because they did not have access to anti-venom. It’s not about the efforts that we are doing, or BSV as a company is making. We may have a lot of energy and motivation to do so, but unless these things are not backed by the policymakers, government programs, health programs at the state level, no awareness can happen. Doctors at the community health centers, and the primary health centers need to be trained.”
Highlighting the lesser-known chronic aspects of disability due to snakebite, Dr. Maya Gopal krishnan, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, AIIMS, Jodhpur said, “Prevention of disabilities is more important and trying to address these disabilities is more difficult. One of the greatest prevention of disabilities would be timely administration of activities. And the best part is, it does not require huge resources or diagnostic support at the level of a primary care center. You do not need to do all the calculations of all the tests. The patients simply need a blood clotting test. Snakebite can produce multiple disabilities of various organ systems. These kinds of disabilities can lead to kidney disease. Around 25 to 30% are going through acute kidney injury besides blindness.”